Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gumball Rally 2011

 Okinawa JETs have an annual tradition of going a little crazy and having some fun around the island. It's a scavenger hunt, of sorts, but includes a variety of photos and videos to be taken or items to procure that are... a little out of the ordinary. But still legal. 

We call it The Gumball Rally. 

This year's event was organized by my favorite, Sarra, and our friends Lisa and Grant. 

 They made sure the teams were all organized, prepared the scavenger hunt list, and even planned a BBQ for when we finished.

When I heard that Gumball Rally was approaching, I put a team together of my favorite coworkers and another favorite ALT from Naha. Once we received our list, we were unstoppable.

We completed our first task within seconds of starting: share a donut without using your hands. Bravo, teammates!
A "blockhead" indeed.

Cross Dressing. Working that sexy Japanese style.
The cashier glared at us so much... :) Worth it. 

Jumping Jubilantly at Jusco! 

Challenge someone to a soda chugging contest. The student won. :) 

My baby daikon (giant radish). He has his mama's skin tone, don't you think?

Cramming into a small space. 

Eating raw goya (bitter melon). 

The littlest, pimpinest snowman. 

Typhoon teeter totter.
 Ah yes, I should mention that we had a tropical storm/typhoon roll through this weekend. The weather today was less than ideal, but didn't dampen our sense of adventure. Besides, we were able to complete many of the tasks while still indoors. Hoorah!

Tree Climbers.

Cliff Jumpers. 

Fake eyelash... wearers. 
These are just a few of a long list of challenges. Some of the best are the videos, but those were taken on another camera. Perhaps I can procure them and share them with you next time.

At 5:30, we met our judges and the other competing teams at the beach to tally scores and enjoy a rainy-day bbq. Additional points were given for team costumes and we planned ours well in advance.

Heroes vs. Villians

Max as "Corporeal Punishment"

Osborne as "Yankee Boy" 

Wang as "Goya Girl"

And me as "SHE-sa, Guardian of the Peace." (With Javier who was super sleepy.)
 Once all the points had been tallied, the judges announced the winners. Can you guess who took it by a landslide of points? Our team!!
It was a proud moment for us. 
I'm glad that OkiJETs are so awesome, that the planners came up with such a fun list of items, and that I had the best team EVER.

Gumball Rally 2011 = Success! 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hula for Japan

It's been awhile since I've posted anything about that big earthquake here in Japan earlier this year, but despite my silence, the catastrophe has never been far from my mind. There are still so many people homeless, broken, and mourning their loved ones. The people of the region still need help, so relief efforts are far from over. 

So, when a friend and fellow JET teacher from Hawaii came up with the idea of a hula performance to benefit the victims of the Tohoku Earthquake, I knew it would be great! 

For the past seven weeks, I and some fellow JETs and friends have been meeting to learn hula! 

In the beginning, the beautiful and generous Alana offered her spacious apartment for our rehearsals, but we needed a little more space and thought mirrors would be helpful.  I called up a friend and we've been able to have some of our rehearsals in Naha at one of my favorite salsa venues: Bomba Latina. 

 The owner, Teddy, is such a nice guy, and let us practice for free! And we were more than happy to order our fill of delicious food during the breaks. 

 Yesterday was our last practice, and it was so exciting to see how all of the dances are coming together! There will are five different dances including a solo by Sammy (above), the adult ladies group, a couples dance, a student dance, and a grand finale.

We've been practicing about two hours every week, and are so excited for our performance this weekend!! It's Sunday night from 6:30 to about 7:30 at Moon Terrace Cafe in Agariahama. Come watch and eat delicious Hawaiian food, if you 're able to, and read more about it here! All of the dancers have donated money to the cause, there will be donation boxes,  and a percentage of the proceeds from the cafe will go toward relief, as well. 

 Of course, none of this could ever have happened without the lovely (seriously just look at her!!) and incredibly talented Kate. She's been the best hula dance instructor. She is SO patient (and she needs to be with some of us... especially me!), and so graceful and inspiring. I want to dance JUST like her, but I know I look a lot more awkward and uncoordinated. :) She not only taught us all the dances, but taught them to herself first! For the couples dance, she learned both the men and women's parts so that she could teach everyone. And she does it so perfectly! 

On top of all that, she's been working like a maniac to organize everything with the cafe, advertise the event, and she even sewed ALL the skirts!!! Amazing! 

Kate, thank you for everything you are doing for our dancers, for this event, and for the people of Japan. 
You are seriously inspiring, and I am so lucky to know you and dance with you! 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Daily Faces

The hunch in her back is pronounced. She no longer stands erect but must walk slowly, her tiny body bent at almost 90 degrees. She wears a faded blue bonnet to shield her face from the piercing sun, but it does little to protect against decades of summers. She pushes a stroller in front of her, but instead of an infant it holds the tools of her daily life: spades and shovels and heavy work gloves. From a distance, she could be mistaken from a small child on a walk with her doll, but a closer look proves that this woman hasn't felt the thrill of youth in my lifetime.  As she trudges past my apartment, I realize that her broken posture is the result of endless days laboring in the fields. As I crawl into my car to leave for work, I offer a friendly "ohayou gozaimasu" but she doesn't seem to hear me and continues slowly to begin, or continue, her day's work.

This is my morning commute.

He furrows his heavy brows and the deep creases around his eyes grow deeper as he peers into the already-bright sun.  He is dressed in common workman's clothing, but he clearly takes pride in his thick mane of hair. He mindlessly pulls a comb from his back left pocket and runs it through the front of his grey-streaked coif, ensuring that the early morning breeze won't disturb a single hair.

His face is darkened by the sun, but not unflatteringly. He is impatient, pacing from the bench to the center of road and back.

Sometimes I drive past in a rush to make the morning meeting, sometimes slowly with plenty of time to spare, but always he is there, one calloused hand shielding the tanned face below that perfectly-styled hair, waiting restlessly for bus 58.

I smile, nod, and continue driving.

The sun is to be feared, hated, and avoided at all costs. At least, that is how this man feels. He embarks on his morning walk by taking every precaution against that fiery ball of evil in the sky. He puts on his dark pants and a long-sleeved jacket. He then brings up the hood, pulls up some UV gloves, perches thick sunglasses on his nose, and inspects himself in the mirror by the door. But wait! What's this? Uncovered skin! Surely the sun will find the revealed flesh of his face and burn it into a bubbling, cancerous ball of dying skin cells.  To safeguard against this terrible fate, he grabs the final piece of his carefully planned outfit: the ski mask.

Or that's what I imagine as he jogs slowly past my car each morning. From head to toe to fingertip to nose, there is not a single sliver of human visible. The result is unsettling at first and, later, humorous. His dedication to untouched skin must surely make him one of the palest, most cancer-free people on the whole sun-soaked island.

I arrive, lock my car, and get to work. These are the people I start my days with. These are my daily faces.

Ojima Beach BBQ

By the time the Koyo Festival was over, us ALTs were ready to relax on the beach with some grilled meat. Luckily, Kazuno and I were prepared.
(Especially Kazuno. Thank you for all the planning!!)
 We drove down to the beach on Ojima (O Island) and started the grills while the sun was still burning down on us. We were too hungry to wait! 
 Luckily, last weekend my friend Neave made some vegetable skewers soaked in Italian dressing, and I was able to do do it again this weekend. So delicious. 
 The sunset from the beach was lovely. 

 and the company was great! 
 Kazuno also brought some things along to burn in a bonfire, and we were able to gather some wood from a tree that had fallen during the typhoon. 
 It was warm and relaxing. I am looking forward to many more bonfires throughout the summer.
It was a fantastic time and a really wonderful way to start our post-weekend time off (Koyo didn't have school Monday or Tuesday in exchange for working Saturday and Sunday). 

Thanks again, Kazuno! You are a BBQ expert. :D 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Koyo Festival 2011

I am "working" this weekend, which actually means I am enjoying my school's festival. 

Which includes eisa dancing, student-made movies, plays, dances, and miscellaneous fun. 
Also, festival food. 

It's a hard life. 

Despite all the fun, I am ready for my "weekend" to start tomorrow. 
I need to sleep in, clean, and go sit on the beach. :) 

Starting... now!

Monday, June 13, 2011

BBQ Season

BBQ Season
Originally uploaded by ReBekha Michele
If the last two weekends are any indication, this is going to be an incredible summer.

I don't even mind working and teaching all summer as long as I can run to the beach afterwards to light things on fire, grill some jalapeño burgers, and throw myself into the ocean.

Nope. Don't mind at all.